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The Gift That's (Still) Most Needed This Holiday Season

For many, the holidays include giving to others, reflecting on your own blessings and making choices or even resolutions to reorient your life back to the priorities where you place value. It is the time of the year when altruism is at an all-time high. We increase our level of giving and gifting on all fronts. We will unabashedly spend hours hunting down the perfect gifts, more freely drop change in donation jars and write checks to charities.

For some, though, the holidays are another reminder of how different their lives are from others. For caregivers or those who are seriously and/or chronically ill, the holidays can be a hard time when the vast amount of one’s resources are directed towards merely surviving. Many holidays I spent doing just that.

I prayed that I would be healthy enough to be with my family and not in a hospital ICU or recovering in a nursing home. I hoped that I would be able to enjoy a couple bites during the family dinner and I wanted desperately to have the gift of health. I also was so grateful that strangers, at least 30 of them over a period of about two years, had taken time out of their busy lives to donate blood. Without their selfless act, I would not be alive.

Before I had become so seriously ill, I was a regular blood donor. Every time I donated blood or platelets, I made sure to schedule an appointment for when I would be able to donate again. Donating blood was a priority because I was giving something money could not buy, but that I knew was such an essential need. At the time, I wasn’t aware of all the people who may need a transfusion. I largely believed donors were needed for those who had been in traumatic accidents, those battling cancer and perhaps those with rare blood disorders.

However, it was not until I ended up becoming the recipient of someone else’s blood donation that I realized anyone at any time may be in my same position. While I was the giver, I felt like I was doing something for people who were in situations I never imagined I’d one day find myself in. It is easy for us to find comfort in a mindset that separates us from those in need. When we give to others, we sometimes do so with the belief that we will “never be like them;” we will never end up in the position of having our name added to the list of individuals in need. We don’t often like to acknowledge that the distinction designating those in need of food, clothing, protecting, or even life-saving blood is, at best, precarious in a world full of unexpected situations and events. It is these distinctions that placate our conscious with the facade that by giving to cause XYZ, we have somehow buffered and differentiated ourselves from those that need such supports.

Unfortunately, this mindset, combined with schedules that are even more packed than usual and a seasonal affect of blissful glee that is resistant to directing attention towards hard realities makes the holiday season the time of the year when blood donations can decline and are most needed.

This holiday season, I implore those of you who are eligible to donate blood, to please do so. You can expect to be welcomed by staff and volunteers at the donation site, have an hour or more of peace and quiet to watch a movie on a tablet, check your email, read a book or even just breathe and rejoice that you are healthy enough to give of yourself in such a meaningful way. This is one gift that comes with the assurance that you are filling a sincere need. This is your chance to give something that will truly save a life.

It also has the power to change a life, including your own. If you are not sure if you are able to donate, please check with your physician to clear up any concerns and then check with your local blood center, hospital or American Red Cross. Thank you, also, to the anonymous donors who gave of themselves so I could live.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness during the holiday season, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images